By: Mark Waid (story), Javier Rodriguez (art), Alvaro Lopez (inks)

The Story: Daredevil can safely say that this whole courtroom is definitely out of order.

The Review: Part of the critic’s game is trying to read the creator’s intention, to figure out what went through his mind as he was writing.  This is obviously a tricky task, given that writers quite frequently don’t know where their own ideas come from.  The seeds of a story may have been planted by some passing experience so long ago that by the time it manifests as a piece of fiction, it practically comes from the writer’s subconscious.

In the case of this issue, it’s pretty hard not to see the Sons of the Serpent, a white supremacist group who has taken over the courthouse (and perhaps, as Matt suspects, the New York City justice system as a whole), as some kind of comment on the Trayvon Martin controversy.  It’s possible that Waid simply drew from generalized problems in the real world’s system of criminal prosecution, but the timing seems too coincidental for that.  Even assuming he wrote the script months earlier, there’s no escaping the Trayvon connection.

Either way—whether Waid’s story has anything to do with topical affairs or not—you can’t avoid reading the Serpents’ actions as direct criticisms against two highly fallible institutions.  In one corner, you have a cop sneering giddily at a panicked black man tricked into holding a gun (gingerly, with his fingertips), aiming his own weapon and taunting, “You left me no choice, boy…what with you drawin’ on me and all…”  Notice the emphasis on the derogatory “boy.”

In the other corner, you have the utterly corrupt judge, finessing the situation and covering for his and the others’ misdeeds.  Watch as he uses the authority of his office to draw false conclusions for the non-witnesses (“Tell me how a stranger got a loaded gun into my courtroom!”), to undermine the credibility of the actual witnesses (“Go ahead, blind man,” he mocks Matt.  “Tell the police what you ‘saw.’”), and to throw procedural roadblocks of those legitimately trying to uphold the system (threatened by a cop who insists on treating his victim, he cries, “This…this could be a trick! Check their identification!”).

I also don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that this issue draws so much attention to Matt’s blindness, as if to make a clear comparison between him and the ideal of Justice herself.  At one point, he even goes so far as to the justice system as “[m]y justice system.”  Between his role as attorney and his identity as Daredevil, he serves as police and prosecutor both, seeking out the truth regardless of his personal dislike for man on trial.

In this world, however, there is no perfect metaphor.  Nate Hackett is hardly a Trayvon figure, and although the Serpents are ostensibly bigots, their motivations in this issue are more terroristic than prejudicial.  In some ways, this shows how troubling and beside-the-point it is to bring in race as a factor for criminal acts.  Racism may provide the mens rea for a crime, but it may also distract from the real work of uncovering facts that will lead to a valid judgment.*  In the end, the Serpents’ goals, which are both vague and encompass more targets than minorities, leave Nate’s legal claims a wash, although it gives Matt a new ongoing threat to exterminate.

Rodriguez has certainly had enough exposure to Chris Samnee to emulate the regular artist’s style, and using his own colors as a constant, an artistic novice (like me) can fool himself into thinking he’s looking at Samnee’s work.  This is hardly a bad thing, as Rodriguez delivers great energy and dynamism in the action sequences.  That long vertical panel of Daredevil leaping down the well of a spiraling staircase, gunshots zipping around him, is a great display of Rodriguez’s talents.

Conclusion: An interesting allegory, if in fact it was intended as such, and entertainingly executed, but the conflict at hand is still rather one-dimensional.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Not to say this is what happened in the Trayon case, but quite a few commentators more astute than me thought so.

– Is that a grin I see on Matt’s face when he sees the person sitting in Foggy’s office?  Can that be Kirsten McDuffie to the legal rescue?  Or maybe Jennifer Walters (AKA She-Hulk)?  What other attorneys are roaming about the Marvel U?

– This goes to show you how much of a stranger I am with Marvel comics, but I never knew that Daredevil kept his blindness a secret from the public at large.